Back to Stories

Life In Slavery

Sarah Ashley, 93, was born in Mississippi.

I used to have to pick cotton and sometimes I pick 300 pound and tote it a mile to the cotton house. Some pick 300 to 800 pound cotton and have to tote the bag the whole mile to the gin. If they didn’t do they work they get whip till they have blister on them. Then if they didn’t do it, the man on a horse goes gown the rows and whip with a paddle make with holes in it and bust the blisters. I never get whip, because I always get my 300 pound. Us have to go early to do that, when the horn goes early, before daylight. Us have to take the victuals in the bucket to the field.
….
Us never got enough to eat, so us keeps stealing stuff. Us has to. They give us the pack of meal to last the week and two, three pound back on in chunk. Us never have flour or sugar, just cornmeal and the meat and potatoes. The [slaves] have the big box under the fireplace, where they keep all the pick and chicken what they steal, down in salt.

Sarah Ashley
Sarah Ashley
Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington